What's Your Cup of Tea?
What’s Your Cup of Tea? was established in 2021 with the goal of using the humble cup of tea to bring different communities in Hackney together.
What is What’s Your Cup of Tea?
What’s Your Cup of Tea? is a social practice artwork by YARA + DAVINA, responding to the theme of Welcome. Since 2021 they have been using the humble cup of tea to bring different communities in Hackney together.
Celebrating the power of sitting down for a cuppa as a chance to catch up with family and friends, for conversation and sharing the many different ways that tea represents culture and tradition across Hackney, What’s Your Cup of Tea? contributes to this with a set of tea blends designed in the community and representing that community.
The project also involves designing and producing a set of tea mugs celebrating ordinary Hackney residents, nominated by the local community. The mugs honour the selected individuals’ lives and achievements as part of the story of the area, incorporating them into traditionally-styled ‘commemorative’ mugs of the kind associated with royal British coronations or jubilees.
The project also offers the Museum as a place for the local community to share tea, serving tea blends made in the community to all local residents at the Museum every Friday afternoon, free of charge.
Who’s on the tea-m?
Social practice artists Yara El-Sherbini and Davina Drummond (YARA + DAVINA), alongside Museum volunteers, made regular visits to Hackney’s Arden Estate and the surrounding community throughout 2021 and 2022 with a bicycle-mounted tea wagon. They offered residents the chance to create their own tea blend, using the aromatic tea herbs, leaves and fruit peels in the wagon, in the search for a blend that represented the community.
From a number of blends made in the community, a panel of local residents chose a shortlist of five, leading to a further process of seeking nominations in the community to reveal one final, winning blend among them. However, it became clear that three of the blends were not only very popular: these could be offered as a set of teas to be taken in the morning, afternoon and at bedtime. HOME BLENDS was born.
The Arden Estate
Our local community is at the heart of this project and a key objective from the start has been to work with residents from an estate close to the Museum. Arden Estate being one of the largest estates in our area meant that our partnership allowed us to reach as many people as possible in our local area, with the invaluable support of North and South TMO. To facilitate that collaboration, we also recruited a Project Trainee who was based on the estate, to act as a link between the residents and the museum.
Why does tea matter?
Sharing tea is a deeply social practice in many cultures and can represent a moment of welcome, contemplation, celebration, or rest. While drinking tea seems quintessentially British to many, its origins and intersection with slavery give it a more complicated story. In May 2022, the Museum of the Home created a free trail around its displays exploring the colonial and migration histories of tea, Tea Through Time. Visitors can download the trail here.
This was part of its programme building public awareness around the wealth of Robert Geffrye, who funded construction of the almshouses in which the Museum is situated today. The import and consumption of tea to Britain is entwined with the story of how Geffrye made his money, among other things, from investments in the East India Company, a tea importer with deep involvement in transatlantic slavery.
This trail contributed to a tour debuted at the Museum in September 2022 by Visitor Experience Host Marcia O’Connor. This tour explores the exploitative history of taking tea, alongside the history of other commodities, through our Rooms Through Time and object displays.
Our winning blends
HOME BLENDS comprises Rise, a blend created to be taken in the morning, Revive, blended to be taken in the afternoon Diffuse, blended to be taken in the evening. The blends also reflect some of the tea herbs and flowers grown in the Museum’s Gardens Through Time.
In Summer 2022, residents from the local community, Tea Wagon volunteers and Museum staff gathered at the Arden Estate to taste and refine the most popular blends. With support from Claire Goulding, we narrowed down the shortlist to 5 blends and on board the Tea Wagon we asked people from the local community to vote for their favourites, which are now our three HOME BLENDS.
The ingredients in HOME BLENDS come from around the world, reflecting the history of trade in the Museum’s local communities and the tradition of tea drinking, in British culture, and other contexts.
The names Rise, Revive and Diffuse blend the rich history of grass-roots social activism in Hackney; from political campaigns, industrial action, environmental and other struggles, with the way we take tea. The tea names subtly blend ideas about rising up, reviving political participation, and the diffusion of ideas, with how tea helps us wake up, revives us during the day, and helps diffuse tension in the evening.
About the blends:
- RISE is a kaleidoscope of flavours, from green tea, mint, elderberry, fennel and a kick of chilli. This invigorating tea will wake you up with its herbal blast.
- REVIVE is a stimulating blend of rooibos, ginger and cinnamon, providing a re-calibration of body and mind in the afternoon.
- DIFFUSE is a relaxing blend of chamomile with lavender, liquorice and elderberry, all tea ingredients that can help you drift off to a restful sleep at the end of a long day.
Free Tea Fridays
HOME BLENDS can be bought in the Museum shop. Sales of the tea blends will fund Free Tea Friday, a relaxed serving of the three blends at the Museum every Friday afternoon, starting in December 2022. We will invite local residents to enjoy these free, regular moments of connection and conversation in the setting of the Museum and gardens. Watch this space and follow our social media for updates.
Those at Free Tea Fridays will also have the opportunity to nominate their own local hero to be commemorated on a mug, bringing along a photo or story about them to share.
Commemorating local stories
As part of celebrating the power of tea to bring local communities together, What’s Your Cup of Tea will design and produce a set of tea mugs celebrating ordinary Hackney residents nominated by the local community.
The mugs honour the selected individuals’ lives and achievements as part of the fabric of the borough, incorporating them into traditionally-styled ‘commemorative’ mugs of the kind associated with royal British coronations or jubilees.
Copies of the mugs will be gifted to the selected individuals and a set will be incorporated into the Museum collections, to be shared with the community for generations.
Free Tea Fridays
Every Friday, you're invited for a free cuppa and conversation at Museum of the Home
For more information
If you would like to find out more about this project, please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org
What’s Your Cup of Tea is supported by Hackney Council’s Shoreditch and Hoxton Art Fund, created from a levy on developers to support arts and culture programmes that bring different communities together. Also supported by Robert Gavron Charitable Trust.